So we’re well and truly into the releases of Marvel’s new NOW initiative that portends to be a relaunch rather than DC’s ill-advised reboot in this Golden Age of appealing to as many demographics, fan cultures and bank accounts as possible. It’d be rather bland of me to simply take the same route I did with the New 52 and have a look at the good ones along with a few wildcards, but since I’m not one for innovation at the moment – or, rather, not one for shifting what few innovation genes I possess away from the stories I’m currently writing – let’s go with the tried-and-true, ok?
To be honest, there’s not an awful lot in Marvel NOW that I’m sufficiently married to the concept to review for. Old-hand staples like Captain America, Iron Man and X-Men are all well and good, but at least 50% of the series on offer appeal to me in no way whatsoever. Granted, DC managed to get me into Superman and Teen Titans of all mother-loving things, so I’m definitely open to trying something I haven’t experienced before. But there isn’t much that really tickles my intrigue to get me interested in checking them out. I mean, I’d rather ingest varnish than dive into a new Fantastic Four hack-rag.
One of the few exceptions to this is the new Hawkeye series. Fans of Joss Whedon’s masterpiece movie might remember him as that one guy that Loki possessed with a fondness for arrows and Bond one-liners. In this new story he’s less a wisecracking Avenger and more a wisecracking street-level spy with a greater fondness for arrows and Bond one-liners and a distinct love of everything purple.
The story is, summarily, quite simple; in his off-hours from saving the world Clint Barton uses the Hawkeye monniker – sans superhero outfit – to take on jobs that are kind of a cross between James Bond, Jason Bourne and Jack Reacher, all the while teamed up with his sidekick-come-successor Kate Bishop and clothing himself in any form of purple he can possibly find. Seriously, there’s a scene where he’s interviewed by Captain America (who has a bright blue and red costume, mind) and the most distinctively coloured elements on the page are his royal purple Converses. Not that I’m complaining, just saying this comic would’ve been really expensive to print back in the Elizabethan era when all that purple ink was the same cost as a small island.
Within said simplicity lies a keen undertone of life on the street well apart from the perceived glamour of being an Avenger. Barton is at once an approachable and yet distinctly alienating character, with both elements juxtaposed and explored quite nicely through his relationship with newbie Hawkeye and almost like the relationship a companion has in Doctor Who, except this companion knows her way around a bow and looks good in a villain’s outfit. I also presume she doesn’t have incredibly annoying and singularly-hinted accent.
resident deadpan snarker Bishop. It’s
The point I’m trying eloquently and laboriously to get to is that the book is really well-balanced between action and character development. There’s lots of good fight sequences and stunts that wouldn’t be out of place in a Die Hard film, and the soft, gooey centre of the unguarded Barton in-between missions is enough to make women go “Awww!” and men laugh derisively at his perceived pussy status. It’s got hints of darker goings-on but never reaches anything bleak or depressing, and the lightness present throughout never reaches absurd or overly-comic-book-ish proportions. It’s like a really well-cooked meal with perfect appetizer and nice wine supplement. It’s also really prettily laid out on the plate, and now I’ve made myself really hungry.
The artwork by David Aja and Javier Pulido kicks lots of ass, and is strongly reminiscent of greats like Alex Maleev (Daredevil), Michael Lark (Daredevil) and Paolo Rivera (umm…Daredevil) in terms of minimalist yet punchy artistry. If I have an issue with the art it’s that Barton all too often doesn’t stand out on the palette when he’s not wearing purple, but I guess that’s part of the theme – Hawkeye, when not with the Avengers, is able to blend into society in a way well-known figureheads like Tony Stark and Steve Rogers can’t. If that was the intent behind the choice of Aja and Pulido, then more power to ’em. Still looks good, even if occasionally you get more pastel colours than Ned Flanders’ wardrobe.
The script is incredibly tight, like a corset fastened by a hydropress. The dialogue feels realistic and like things people would actually say, there’s some nice snark in Barton’s inner monologuing that doesn’t feel too navel-gazey or like he’s trying to rip off Sam Spade, and there’s some quite witty banter exchanged between the two Hawkeyes as they go off on missions together. Also (hope you’re reading this, Allan Heinberg), Kate Bishop is written as a much more intelligent and involving character with dialogue that doesn’t come pre-packaged with enough angst to produce a Linkin Park album. Writer Matt Fraction seems to have a bit of difficulty distinguishing the relationship between Kate and Clint at times, alternating brother-sister, mentor-student opposite-aged-love-interests, so a bit of distinction in later books would be good.
On the whole, as one of the first entrants out of the gate for Marvel NOW you could certainly do a lot worse than picking up the new Hawkeye series. It’s a wee bit short, but it’ll certainly leave you wanting more. Kind of like what the ending of each my reviews fails to do.
BEST QUOTE: “Okay…this looks bad.” – Clint Barton